Traditional Publishing

Born of Friendship, the Book Group Is Making Its Mark as an Agency – Saturday December 14, 2019

Walking into the offices of the Book Group, housed in a small (by Manhattan standards) building on West 20th Street, one is greeted by the standard design trappings of literary agencies. Posters of book jackets line the walls and dozens upon dozens of books sit on shelves hanging above desks in cubicles and offices.

In the conference room, where the books of clients sit spine out on shelves that stretch from hip level to the ceiling, the vibe is unusually positive. Those who work in publishing can tend toward glass-half-empty. The eight women who work at Book Group (four principals, one senior agent, one agent, and two assistants) seem different. It feels a bit like stepping onto the set of a TV show about book publishing—one cast by the creators of Friends, featuring characters written by Aaron Sorkin.

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10 top tips for teaching creative writing – Thursday December 12, 2019

Teaching creative writing is one of my favourite things. I love the imaginative and weird ideas pupils come up with. But it’s hard, no doubt about that, and students can struggle to trust their creativity.

Teaching creative writing

So, here are my 10 tips for creative essays:

1. Get story ideas from the world around you

Read the paper to see what weird things are going on. Listen to strangers’ conversations and steal them. If you love history, write historical fiction. If you love science, write about the moon. Make it your own.

2. There are no rules here

Creative writing is personal and individual. Nobody should tell anybody what they can or can’t do. Having said that, the following suggestions are tried and tested. They will give most stories a bit of a boost.

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‘Her bottom was insane with orgasm’: Why are men so good at writing badly about sex? – Tuesday December 10, 2019

I heaved a sigh of relief as the results of the 2019 Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction were announced at London’s In and Out club last week. It was a joint win for Didier Decoin and John Harvey (a teasing reference to the Booker Prize judges’ inability to pick a single winner), who had equally offended in terms of penning “the year’s most outstandingly awful scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel.”

This meant neither of the women on the six-strong shortlist were saddled with the prize. I had some skin in the game, as I’d given one of the novels – Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls – a rave review, on the grounds her sex writing was so witty, wise and true-to-life. It would have been embarrassing for me, a supposed expert in erotic lit (I’ve edited two sex-themed literary magazines), if Gilbert had won.

The statistics were on my side: in the past 26 years, only three women have carried off the Bad Sex trophy.

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Vicarious travels: On the travel writing genre – Saturday December 7, 2019

Upon arriving at Waterstones there is one section we tend to flock to: fiction. We crave the idea of losing ourselves in others’ stories, travelling into our imagination. Whilst I’m an aficionado for the fictional, in recent months I’ve come across a new genre that allows us to explore the amazing and varied world we live in and follow the stories of real people’s adventures and experiences, of people’s subjective and varying experiences when travelling across the globe.

I’m now a strong advocate for the modern travel genre, and have a few recommendations for reading over the winter break.

Travel writing encompasses so many styles and sub-genres – the common characteristic is simply to give a new perspective on life, through stories of new places and cultures. It isn’t simply recommendations of where to go and what to see, like promotional travel magazines, but rather tales of real people going out and seeing the world.

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Point of View Quickly Brings a Story to Life

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach – Wednesday December 4, 2019

Intimacy with characters will hook your readers

A close point of view, whether first person or third, will supply the inner meaning to a story. Such an intimate point of view brings to any piece of fiction insight, warmth, understandable human foibles, and an empathetic reader attraction to the character. This “limited” point of view facilitates a direct transmission of emotion. Without such a specific character perspective, all the readers have to enlighten them is outer description—although externals can, of course, go a long way to pointing to feeling and shoring up emotional declarations.

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How To Write And Publish An Op-Ed (Even If You Are Not A Writer) – Thursday November 28, 2019

My colleague, New School writing professor Sue Shapiro (The Byline Biblehas taught writing for 25 years. Her students have broken into top publications such as The New York TimesThe Washington PostCNNNewsdayThe LA Times, and more. I spoke with Sue (we first met when as editor of a now defunct publication I assigned her to write a funny piece on Barbie) and asked her to share her best tips on how to write, target and publish a short op-ed for a newspaper or magazine. 

EE: Everyone has opinions, so everyone has an op-ed in them. The problem is most don’t understand how to write them. 

SS: I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from writing a short op-ed piece Many of my students have been published for the first time with op-eds. They have been offered jobs, internships, speaking engagements, and editors and agents have come calling. 

Every newspaper is open to short pieces by not only writers but people in every field. Most publications pay between $50 to $500 for a short piece of 350-750 words. 

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The Number One Mark Of An Amateur Writer – Wednesday November 27, 2019

It's time for some publishing wisdom. Many people are freelance writers as side hustles. They write books, articles, brochures, or novels, while also holding a full-time job. Without years of experience in writing, there are some mistakes that everyone can make, if they are not careful.

As a writing coach and NYU professor I work with my students to build their portfolio and get the attention of editors.

I always tell them there is one way to immediately get sent to the slush pile.

If you want to be taken seriously as a professional writer, stop using exclamation marks as punctuation. It’s the mark of an amateur, and every editor thinks it, even if they don't tell you to your face.

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Defining Roles: Agents & Editors – Wednesday November 27, 2019

At the pre-publication stage, as you’re drafting queries and sending off sample pages, an editor at a publishing house and a literary agent seem to serve the same purpose: to legitimize your claim as a professional author, and to set you on the path to publication.

That’s usually where the similarity ends. An editor interested in your novel can make you a publication offer, complete with an advance, a contract, and a timeline in which your novel will publish. He will be your champion inside the publishing house, coordinating between editorial and other departments to make sure that everyone is working in line with the vision for the book.

But what if that vision, after a few adjustments, no longer matches your own? What if you aren’t sure about a clause in the contract, or you don’t know what the editorial process should entail? Your editor loves your work and wants to support you, but it’s not his job to hold your hand through the process. At the end of the day, he answers to the publishing house.

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Author Charlotte Philby on how to write a novel when you’re really, really freaking busy – Monday November 25, 2019

I have a life that’s messy and manic – hello three small kids and a Netflix addiction – so let me tell you how I did it and got published too. Can you do it? Yes you can!

The late American author Charles Bukowski famously said about writing, ‘If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it. Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your gut, don’t do it. If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.’ I say bollocks. I also say that Bukowski clearly didn’t have multiple jobs, several children, mounting bills and a demanding Netflix habit to juggle at any one time, alongside his simmering idea for a novel.

Sure, I imagine for some the writing process is an unconscious purging of literary brilliance that falls fully-formed from their fingers. For the rest of us, it’s a slog. Even for practised writers, writing a book is hard as hell. I say that as someone who spent ten years as a daily news journalist whilst raising three children and simultaneously trying and failing and then trying again – and FINALLY succeeding – to get a book deal.

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Why are great women writers still adopting male pseudonyms? – Friday November 22, 2019

There are some interesting things you may or may not know about Nuneaton-born writer, George Eliot. In 2015, her landmark book, Middlemarch (1872), topped a BBC poll of the 100 greatest British novels and it’s been cited as one of the finest works ever written by such diverse writers as Virginia Woolf and Martin Amis. 

But as well as her literary prowess, Eliot was also steeped in scandal. First she was ostracised by polite society for living openly with a married man, George Lewes. And then, after his death, her reputation took a further tumble when she married a man 20 years her junior only for him to attempt suicide on their honeymoon balcony in Venice.

To put it succinctly, the woman born Mary Ann or Marian Evans in 1819 is one of Britain’s greatest writers, having also written the stone-cold classics Adam Bede (1859), The Mill On The Floss (1860) and Silas Marner (1861) to name just a few. Yet Eliot remains something of an enigma.

In part, it’s thanks to her image as a slightly dour Victorian writer (her novels fell out of favour in the early 20th century only to be reappraised in the 1950s), but also, and more importantly, because of her male pen name. But just why did she feel the need to write under this false identity?

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